Friday, May 31, 2013


Way back in Şubat, I drafted a blog post celebrating and lamenting the passing of the January semester holiday which signified the halfway point of not only the school year, but also the exchange year.

Then I blinked and it was April.

AND THEN, before I even had a chance to come up with another expression to try and convey to you just how quickly time is passing, I was hanging an Easter Card next to my Valentine’s and Christmas cards on the wall of interesting things I got in the mail and thinking about my poor blog maintenance.

(It took me another few days to realize that neither of those statements actually convey the fact that it is now the last day of May, you could say that these weeks have passed so quickly that I forgot what month Easter was in and took over a month to hang up my card).

Now here we are, with only a handful of weeks left, and I’m attemping to break the vicious cycle of avoiding a blog post because too much has happened, only to want to write even less because even more has happened…

The winter passed pleasantly, after the volleyball season ended with the loss of our second game, I stayed busy with an afterschool Turkish class and Ebru (Turkish Paper Marbling) and Çini (hand painted tiles) class.
Çini done by Rya
Professional Çini in an Ottoman Palace in Istanbul

Although there were only just a couple scattered weeks with snow on the ground (I had been hoping for more; last year it is said that the ground was covered for two months straight), we made it the 20 some minute drive to Erciyes Mountain quite a few times, and I even got to take a downhill skiing class with my host sister.

Over semester break me and my host family visited family in Kirrikale, and then had the misfortune of being in Ankara when a suicide bomb was set off outside of the U.S. Embassy, winning us lots of (rightful) concern and attention from AFS as they made the rounds to make sure all the students were okay mentally and physically (we were).

In February, Bridget, a fellow YES student in Gaziantep decided it would be best if she returned to her home in Vermont, making us only number 5 total when we got to show the Gaziantep girls around Kayseri, when we too visited an abandoned church and the Talas underground for the first time. After that we all together went to Kapadokya for our mid-year AFS camp and stayed in a very nice hotel that made us pay extra to use the swimming pool, but it was all worth it when a poorly translated sign (whose true meaning I’m not even sure of) prohibited you from swimming if you weren’t inspired. After our camp we toured Kapadokya, seeing some sights again, but also many new ones- including the churches of the Göreme Open Air Museum and added our locks of hair to Chez’ collection of over 16,000 (unfortunately photography is not allowed in either of those places). We got to run around strange shaped rock formations and be crazed tourists, taking way too many photos, and eavesdrop on what Turkish tourists had to say about the foreign ones.
Long abandoned Armenian church

Talas underground

Entrance to the Talas underground

In April the host moms of our three Kayseri host families traveled to Belgium for a week on a mini mom exchange program, leaving Hana, Rya and I with a few extra responsibilities around our respective houses as the oldest females, and lots of family nights out to dinner (Turkish moms do a lot, and all of ours stay at home-something more common in Turkey- doing lots of cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, and looking after the house. Culturally, it is not at all common for a mom to go on a solo vacation like this, so family and friends in our apartment pitched in to make sure we were fed and our house was vacuumed). I made chicken soup and macaroni and cheese for my family, the soup was fairly well-liked after an addition of hot pepper and lemon juice, and the mac’n’cheese was a big hit.

At school we are just finishing the final round of testing for all of our classes- I take English, Turkish Literature, Psychology, Project, Geography, Religion, Language Arts, German, Math, History, P.E., Art and Computers. I still don’t understand my lessons to the extent of a Turkish student, and people think its funny that I still come to all of the tests, even though my grades are far from great. I do best in geography (because it is very map based and country names are usually pretty similar except for the occasional Greece=Yunanıstan), math (because it is sometimes things I already know, or otherwise straightforward), language arts (because they actually teach Turkish grammar in a very similar format to the way I learn the tenses as a foreign language), art (because I like to draw), computers (because I know how to use powerpoint and excel), and P.E. (because I am susceptible to learning how to march in rows, pass a baton in a running race and throw metal balls into a sand pit).

After seven months of the program, AFS allows students to travel independently, provided that they get permission from both natural and host family, aren’t missing too much school, and are staying with a responsible adult. In mid April I got to make one of my biggest fantasies of the year come true, by flying by myself to Istanbul to meet up and sightsee for five days with Ruby, another YES student living in Gaziantep. We had full full full days and managed to visit almost all of the major sights of a city that Turks claim you couldn’t fully discover if you were to stay a month. Being able to speak the language of the over 14 million person city made a world of difference, and the trip left me with more fond memories and photos than I am prepared to tackle just yet... Here's a sample-
Inside the Aya Sofya (Haghia Sophia) a 5th century church later converted to a mosque,
now a museum and one of Istanbul's most famous landmarks

Fish restaurants under the Galata Bridge

Sultan Ahmet Camii (The Blue Mosque)

Old Greek Orthodox School

Spice Bazaar

A few weeks later I traveled with my host family to Mersin for the weekend, where I got to eat delicious strawberries and take a dip in the Mediterranean, following by a weekend of my solo traveling to Gaziantep to visit Ruby, where we saw one of Turkey’s most famous mosaics, got scrubbed/washed/massaged in a hamam (Turkish bath) for about $10, ate liver kebab, and basically invented baconless bacon by frying pastırma (thinly sliced spice-cured beef; pork is not eaten in Turkey), and met up with a girl who lived in Gaziantep last year with the YES program and happened to be back visiting. It was so interesting to hear about how much the students, experiences and program can change from year to year!

Now we have less than three weeks left in Kayseri, and I’ve started trying to imagine packing (still haven’t started yet, I’ve merely started to imagine), made lists of the things I still want to do before I leave, the people I want to be sure and visit and thank, the food I need to frantically learn to how to make and collect ingredients for, and the five minute presentation I need to make about the program’s impact to the Department of State upon our jet-lagged and bittersweet arrival to Washington DC on June 19th.

And I found a turtle in a cemetary on Mother's Day

There is also this new smattering of photos from throughout the year through the beginning of March that I just got around to posting!